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Full text of "My country and my people"

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THE   CHINESE    MIND                       79
to prove it. When he feels the truth directly that women's vocabulary in speech and writing is decidedly less abstract, that is sufficient for him.) With the Chinese as with women, concrete imagery always takes the place of abstract terminology. The highly academic sentence: "There is no difference but difference of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference/5 cannot be exactly reproduced in Chinese, and a Chinese translator would probably substitute for it the Mencian question: "What is the difference between running away fifty steps and running away a hundred steps [in battle]?" Such a substitute expression loses in definition and exactness, but gains in intelligibility. To say, uHow could I perceive his inner mental processes?55 is not so intelligible as "How could I know what is going on in his mind?", and this in turn is decidedly less affective than the Chinese "Am I a tapeworm in his belly?"
Chinese thought, therefore, always remains on the periphery of the visible world, and this helps a sense of fact which is the foundation of experience and wisdom. This dislike of abstract terms is further seen in the Chinese names for classifications which usually require sharply defined terms. Instead, the Chinese always seek the most expressive names for different categories. Thus in Chinese literary criticism there are different methods of writing called "the method of watching a fire across the river" (detachment of style), "the method of dragon-flies skimming the water surface" (lightness of touch), "the method of painting a dragon and dotting its eyes" (bringing out the salient points), the method of releasing a captive before capturing him" (playing about a subject), "the method of showing the dragon's head without its tail" (freedom of movement and waywardness of thought), "the method of a sharp precipice overhanging a ten-thousand-feet ravine" (abruptness of ending), "the method of letting blood by one needle-prick" (direct, epigrammatic gibe), "the method of going straight into the fray with one knife" (direct opening), "the method of announcing a campaign on the east and marching to the west" (surprise attack), "the method of side-stabs and flanking attacks" (light raillery), "the method of a light mist hanging over a grey lake" (mellow and toned-down style), "the method